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Following back-to-back forgetful performances, Luke Jackson was replaced as the closer after the trade deadline. He was fresh off allowing five earned runs in his last inning pitched, and his ERA bloomed to 3.96 – the highest mark since mid-April. Despite that, Jackson had been the single most pivotal piece to Atlanta’s bullpen to that point, filling in rather effectively as Atlanta’s closer when Arodys Vizcaino went down with a season-ending injury, and A.J. Minter lost his mojo. The already flawed Braves relief core needed a savior, and they found one in Luke Jackson, but even he has to feel relieved in a new role that suits him much better.

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Since the Braves acquired Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin, Jackson has been at the top of his game. The sliderman has completed 12.1 innings and only surrendered two runs (1.35 ERA) while striking out 18. As a result, his ERA on the year sits at 3.41, and his K/9 innings is a career-high 12.1.

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There haven’t been many more effective pitches than Luke Jackson’s gyroscopic slider, which he has thrown well over 50% of the time this season. Instead of a typical slider that has sharp horizontal movement, Jackson’s is strictly vertical, leading to a boatload of swings and misses. He’s forcing batters to chase at a 36.8% clip – well above his career average of 32.5% – and he’s striking out opponents 31.1% of the time – a career-high. His slider’s pitch value, according to FanGraphs, is a ridiculous 10.1 – the 9th best mark in the league – making it one of the deadliest sliders coming out of a relievers’ hand. Here’s a little snippet from The Hardball Times explaining why that slider is so fatal.

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Jackson (9-2) earned the win Wednesday after holding the Royals scoreless with four strikeouts across 1.1 innings.

The right-hander punched out all four batters faced through the fifth and sixth innings as the Braves took the lead for good. Through 69 appearances this season, Jackson owns a 3.88 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with 18 saves.

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“He also throws the pitch hard, sitting inside the 85th percentile in the majors in slider velocity among pitchers with 50 sliders thrown.

It also possesses nearly 9.5 inches more drop (98th percentile) than the average pitcher’s slider in this window of velocity. The result is a pitch with exceptional swing-and-miss numbers. His goal moving forward is to maintain the pitch’s effectiveness.”
Not to mention, Jackson’s also throwing his fastball harder than he ever has in his career, recording an average velocity of 96.1. At 28-years-old, he appears to be more than a one-year wonder. Jackson has three years left of control remaining, and the Braves should be thrilled about his progression in 2019.

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Depth is what is going to make the Braves bullpen a weapon the rest of the way. Atlanta still lacks the arm at the end of the game that can overpower the most potent of lineups. However, every pitcher down the line has the attributes to fill a role. Brian Snitker is still trying to figure out what those roles should be. Jackson won’t be the closer, but he continues to show he can be trusted in high-leverage situations.

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Dan Schneider was the best pitcher in college baseball in 1962. He went 13-1. He was a first-team All-American. He struck out 186 batters, which remains an Arizona record 57 years later.

Schneider was also the best bargain in college baseball in 1962, and maybe ever.

“No one ever offered me a scholarship,” he says now, chuckling. “My father was a faculty researcher at the UA, working on his doctorate, so I paid about $125 per semester. I lived at home so I didn’t need a dorm room. The school loaned me my books.”

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Schneider struck out 20 batters in one game. His ERA was 1.30, which remains the best career ERA in school history. He didn’t need much help; he pitched 14 complete games in 15 starts.

After starting the ‘62 season 25-1, the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation, the first time an Arizona team, in any sport, climbed to No. 1.

Schneider, a lefty from Rincon High School, was The Franchise and a very big deal.

The Milwaukee Braves, hoping he would be the “next Warren Spahn,” paid him an almost unheard of $100,000 bonus and Schneider was fast-tracked to the big-leagues, making his debut when he was 20.

But as the years went by, as Arizona won four NCAA baseball championships and became a national power in softball and golf and swimming and men’s basketball, Schneider’s legendary 1962 season faded from memory.

The school created its Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and it inducted, on average, more than one deserving baseball player per year for more than four decades: Terry Francona, Trevor Hoffman, Eddie Leon, Scott Erickson, 49 and counting.

Finally, last spring, Dan Schneider, now 77, got a long overdue call from UA officials. He had been elected to the Class of 2019.

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Schneider will be inducted with six other ex-Wildcats on Thursday night at the Westin LaPaloma Resort.

“Honestly, it hasn’t bothered me; maybe I’ve been a little disappointed, but now that it’s happened it’s very rewarding,” says Schneider, who remains active as an insurance executive in Southern Arizona. “This will be a good occasion to share with my family details about my career. That’s as important as anything.”

Schneider was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, an honor that was perhaps as much for his leadership and influence in getting the Colorado Rockies to stage spring training at Hi Corbett Field as for his pitching career.

Either way, the pitcher with first-ballot Hall of Fame stuff is finally getting a deserving honor at his alma mater.

Schneider pitched for Hall of Famer Frank Sancet, Class of ‘76, and it didn’t take Sancet long to see that his “walk-on” from Rincon was something special.

After returning from the Canadian summer league in 1961, Schneider had developed a sharp-breaking curveball that set him apart in college baseball, and to MLB scouts.

Justin Verlander was absolutely dominant in his no-hitter against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. He walked just one batter and notched 14 strikeouts, while also exceeding the 250-strikeout plateau for the 2019 season — marking the fifth time in his career that he’s done so.

Verlander’s gem had a game score of 100, which assigns points for strikeouts, outs and completed innings after the fourth — a useful measure of how dominant a pitcher was.

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• Facts and figures from JV’s no-hitter

Here are the 10 most dominant no-hitters, by highest game score in a no-hitter, since 1908:

1. Max Scherzer, 104 (10/3/2015 at Mets)

This is probably the first no-hitter that comes to mind when you think about total dominance. Even though he wasn’t perfect — Kevin Plawecki reached on a Yunel Escobar error to lead off the sixth — Scherzer himself was flawless. He struck out 17 batters, tying Nolan Ryan’s record for the most in a no-hitter, in Flushing in the second game of a doubleheader on the penultimate day of the season.

Scherzer completes the no-hitter
Scherzer completes the no-hitter
01:59
Oct. 3rd, 2015
2. Clayton Kershaw, 102 (6/18/2014 vs. Rockies)

Kershaw’s only career no-hitter was a doozy, as he set down 15 batters with strikeouts against the Rockies. If not for a Hanley Ramirez throwing error to allow Corey Dickerson to reach base to start the seventh, Kershaw would’ve thrown a perfect game. At the time, only Ryan had notched more than 15 strikeouts in a no-hitter, having done so twice. Scherzer joined that list a year later (see above).

Kershaw throws no-hitter
Kershaw throws no-hitter
01:30
Jun. 19th, 2014
3-Tie. Matt Cain, 101 (perfect game, 6/13/2012 vs. Astros)

Cain’s game score is tied for the highest on record in a perfect game. On his day of perfection, he struck out 14 Astros on 125 pitches, marking the most strikeouts in any no-hitter of any kind in Giants history. It was also the first perfect game in club history and the 22nd overall.

Cain completes perfect game
Cain completes perfect game
02:09
Jun. 13th, 2012
3-Tie. Nolan Ryan, 101 (5/1/1991 vs. Blue Jays)

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It’s fitting that Ryan is on this list — twice, in fact — given that he threw a Major League-record seven no-hitters. He had another with more strikeouts than his 16 against the Blue Jays here, but he walked fewer batters in this one, which makes the game score higher and the dominance more palpable. He walked just two en route to his seventh and final no-hitter at the ripe age of 44.

5/1/91: Ryan’s 7th No-Hitter
5/1/91: Ryan’s 7th No-Hitter
02:05:57
May 1st, 1991
3-Tie. Sandy Koufax, 101 (perfect game, 9/9/1965 vs. Cubs)

Koufax set the standard for strikeouts — and dominance — in a perfect game with his gem against the Cubs in 1965. He struck out a record 14 batters in a perfect game, besting Jim Bunning’s previous mark of 10 done in 1964, and Koufax’s record has been matched just once since, by Cain — which explains the identical, and perfect-game record, game scores.

Koufax’s perfecto
Koufax’s perfecto
00:20
Sep. 9th, 1965
3-Tie. Nap Rucker, 101 (9/5/1908 vs. Braves)

In an era when it was the norm for no-hitters to feature fewer than 10 strikeouts, Rucker fanned 14, which would stand as a record for a no-hitter until 1960, when Warren Spahn struck out 15 in a no-no. Also of note: Rucker went the distance in just the second season of his career.

7-Tie. Justin Verlander, 100 (9/1/2019 at Blue Jays)

Verlander punched out 14 and walked just one over a 120-pitch masterpiece at Rogers Centre — the peak of what’s developed into an AL Cy Young Award-caliber season for the eight-time All-Star. Verlander overcame a lack of fastball velocity and command early — he needed 21 pitches to get through the first — and flashed some of his best secondary stuff en route to becoming just the sixth pitcher to complete three no-hitters.

Verlander completes 3rd no-hitter
Verlander completes 3rd no-hitter
09:33
Sep. 1st, 2019
7-Tie. Randy Johnson, 100 (perfect game, 5/18/2004 at Braves)

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A 40-year-old Johnson became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game when he punched out 13 in Atlanta, falling just one strikeout shy of tying Koufax and Cain’s record for most in a perfect game. Johnson even fanned Chipper Jones a rare three times (Jones had just 35 such games over his 19-year career), and he pitched without a safety net, as Atlanta’s Mike Hampton also tossed a complete game and gave up just two runs. Johnson went the distance on 117 pitches to notch one of his 37 shutouts — the most by any pitcher over Johnson’s 22 seasons in the Majors from 1988-2009.

Randy Johnson’s perfect game
Randy Johnson’s perfect game
02:34
May 16th, 2019
7-Tie. Nolan Ryan, 100 (7/15/1973 at Tigers)

Ryan’s second season with the Angels still ranks among the most dominant of any pitcher in history, and he was positively stifling during his second no-no of that summer. Ryan’s 17 strikeouts stood alone in no-hitter history for 42 years until Scherzer tied the mark, and he was so overpowering (four batters reached via walk) that Tigers slugger Norm Cash famously brought a table leg to the plate for the game’s final at-bat. Legend has it that Cash and his teammates thanked the home-plate umpire that day when he called strike three and sent them back to safety in the dugout.

7-Tie. Warren Spahn, 100 (9/16/1960 vs. Phillies)

Spahn only topped his 15 strikeouts in this game one other time in his prolific career, and that was an 18-strikeout effort across 15 innings in a complete-game loss to the Cubs on June 14, 1952. This one required much less work. Spahn faced just two batters over the minimum and notched the one thing missing from his career resume at age 39: a no-hitter. Sphan added his second no-no the next year at age 40.

“The Phillies sent a lot of prospects to Saskatoon; five of my teammates got to the majors,” Schneider remembers. “I was the pitcher of the year and by the time I returned to Tucson for my sophomore season I had progressed so much I felt I had the ability to be Arizona’s No. 1 pitcher.”

Indeed, Schneider started the ‘62 season opener, against UCLA, and struck out 14 Bruins. As Arizona climbed to No. 1 and the Schneider averaged almost 13 strikeouts per game, scouts often filled the seats behind home plate at the old UA baseball facility where the Main Library now sits.

In the days before radar guns, scouts had to guess at the speed of a pitcher’s fastball. One UA professor was so intrigued by Schneider that he developed a system of photographs, frame by frame, as Schneider pitched against a background of black canvas.

“He determined that I was throwing 91 mph,” Schneider says. “It turned a few heads. It sounded impressive.”

At the end of the season, the Braves made Schneider an offer he couldn’t refuse: $100,000. Although he was from an education-first family, Schneider couldn’t pass up the bonus. He left Arizona after one varsity season — in 1961, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity baseball — and began his pro career at Triple-A Louisville, which was almost unprecedented.

His MLB debut was on May 12, 1963, less than a year after Schneider lost his only college game: a heart-breaking 1-0 setback to the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA playoffs in Tucson. Schneider struck out 16 that night; the Longhorns eliminated Arizona and advanced to the College World Series a day later.

“Danny gave up three hits and struck out 16 and we lost,” Sancet told reporters 57 years ago. “We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Schneider spent five years in the majors, with the Braves and Astros, and broke into the big leagues with a clubhouse full of future Hall of Famers — Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Joe Torre and Eddie Mathews.

“I could tell baseball stories all day,” says Schneider. “One of my favorites was a day we were playing St. Louis, just getting killed, when I was summoned from the bullpen for mop-up duty.

“Eddie Matthews was madder than a wet hen. He was a very commanding presence. He walked to the mound from third base and told me to hit the next batter in the head. It was Tim McCarver. So I threw this dart and it bounced off Tim’s helmet. I thought all hell was going to break loose, but Tim trotted calmly to first and Eddie just stood there, staring into the Cardinals dugout, waiting to fight someone.

“I never became the next Warren Spahn, but I just loved my baseball days.”

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The Braves have activated right-hander Darren O’Day from the 60-day injured list. The team created a 40-man roster spot by recalling catcher Alex Jackson from Triple-A and then placing Jackson the 60-day IL himself, ending his 2019 season. Outfielder Adam Duvall was also called up from Triple-A.

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O’Day is in position to make his first appearance in a Braves uniform, and his first MLB appearance of any kind since June 26 when the veteran reliever was still a member of the Orioles bullpen. O’Day underwent hamstring surgery a few days after that last outing, but was still dealt to Atlanta as part of a six-player deal at the 2018 trade deadline, as O’Day’s inclusion was largely just a salary dump on Baltimore’s part. After suffering forearm problems in Spring Training, however, O’Day has missed all of the 2019 season, and only returned to minor league action on August 23 for the first of four rehab outings.

When Darren O’Day stepped into the clubhouse for the Gulf Coast Braves, beginning a rehab assignment that he wondered would ever arrive, he was mistaken for a coach.

Mahki Backstrom, a 17-year-old first baseman the Braves drafted in June, wondered if O’Day was a player or coach. O’Day laughed it off and pointed out he was pitching in the majors when Backstrom wasn’t even 10.“You meet some characters along the way,” O’Day said. “So he and I became friends. We talked (trash) to each other the whole time I was there. We had fun.”Just another subplot in O’Day’s comeback, which came to fruition Thursday after over a year of persistence and self-reflection.The Braves announced that O’Day was being activated from the 60-day injured list before the series opener against the Nationals. The 36-year-old right-hander, once one of the best relievers in the game, last pitched June 26, 2018 for Baltimore.

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“It’s the second-most excited I’ve been walking into a clubhouse (other than my debut),” O’Day said. “Just a lot of time to reflect on my career, where this team is at. I’m so excited to be part of it. I can’t wait to pitch. It’s been way too long.”The Braves acquired him in a trade July 31, 2018, along with Kevin Gausman, for four minor leaguers: catcher Brett Cumberland, pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmermann and infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion.O’Day was out the rest of the 2018 season because of a left hamstring strain, but the Orioles used that deal as an opportunity to dump his remaining salary, which included $9 million for 2019. He’s missed much of this season with a right forearm strain.

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“Pitching has been such a big part of my life,” he said. “It’s the competition you get used to. When that’s taken away from you, you have all this wasted energy and concentration. So I am just so excited to pitch again and feel like I’m part of the team. A good team, obviously. So I’m ready to contribute and do what I can.”The Florida product acknowledges there were many times he considered hanging it up. He’s had a successful career. He’s made his money. It wouldn’t have been a storybook ending, but it’s not as though O’Day hadn’t made the most of his talent. But his support system, chiefly his wife, Elizabeth, and his parents, kept him going. Despite multiple setbacks, despite pitching just once in a Braves uniform – March 1, a scoreless spring training inning – O’Day built himself back up and finally embarked on a rehab assignment.He was nervous before his first game in the GCL, where he’d eventually pitch a scoreless inning Aug. 23. He knew if anything acted up again, that was probably curtains.O’Day turned out healthy: He required only four appearances in his rehab assignment, striking out six over four scoreless innings.And on Thursday, he returned to a big-league clubhouse. If his forearm trouble is behind him, he believes he could pitch “a few more years.”“There were a lot of times (I thought about retiring),” he said. “Everybody, my wife being No. 1, I have a great support system. My dad, mom, family. And these guys in (this clubhouse).

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I’m very grateful to the organization to let me stay around and be part of the team in some abstract way. It keeps you going, keeps you motivated.”The experience in the minors was an eye-opening one for O’Day. He’s intrigued by potentially coaching after his playing career – he loves working with younger players and feels he has a wealth of knowledge worth sharing – but he also loves his children, who are four and 1-1/2 years young.Prized outfield prospect Drew Waters admired O’Day and asked him to hang out in the offseason. O’Day welcomes being the veteran, a sage to which youngsters can ask their endless questions. High-A Florida even had O’Day speak to the team on what he’d tell prospects in their positions.“Being around younger kids, GCL, High-A, Triple-A, it made me reflect on how much the game has changed and how much my life has changed, how baseball has changed,” O’Day said. “There’s different phases of life and how far these kids have to go, what they do and don’t know. It was really cool to be around them and go through that. It was pretty neat.”Now O’Day is another experienced arm plugged into the Braves’ enriched clubhouse. However he fares, his journey was a road less traveled that impacted many in its path.

One of the game’s most underrated relievers from 2012-15, O’Day’s numbers took a step back from outstanding in those four seasons to merely solid over the next three. While he still delivered a 3.56 ERA, 3.44 K/BB rate, and 11/4 K/9 over 111 1/3 IP for the Orioles in 2016-18, O’Day was also plagued by the long ball, as his HR/9 spiked to a 1.4 average over those three seasons. It doesn’t necessarily auger well for a pitcher entering the homer-crazy 2019 baseball season, especially one coming back after over a year’s absence.

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Since the Braves do have a healthy seven-game lead in the NL East, however, the team has the flexibility to work O’Day back into the mix in low-pressure situations. If he reveals any of his old form, he could even be a darkhorse contender to earn a spot on Atlanta’s postseason roster. The Braves’ bullpen has been something of a question mark for much of the season, though the trade deadline additions of Shane Greene and Mark Melancon have helped stabilize matters (after some initial bumps). If nothing else, O’Day is hoping for a strong finish to give him some kind of jumping-off point as he enters the free agent market this winter.

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The beautiful month of October is nearly here, and the Braves will once again be a part of the festivities. They clinched the NL East last Friday and will be the #2 seed in the NL heading into the postseason. As of now, it looks like they will play the St. Louis Cardinals, as the Braves attempt to win their first playoff series since 2001. Yes, it’s been that long. However, for the first time in a while, they will enter the opening round as heavy favorites.
With Ender Inciarte set to return at the end of the week, there are still some roster decisions for Brian Snitker and company to iron out, but his most challenging move will be how to align this starting rotation.

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Amazingly, the Braves starting pitching has gone from a revolving door of hopeful names to one of the most complete in the majors over the last couple of months. Mike Soroka has been the most consistent pitcher in the MLB, Max Fried leads the club in wins, the acquisition of Dallas Keuchel stabilized things, Julio Teheran found his mojo, and Mike Foltynewicz went from a complete mess to the pitcher who started in Game 1 of the NLDS last year. All of these arms deserve an opportunity to pitch in the playoffs, but the Braves only need three or at most four of them in their rotation come October.
We will start with who are the three pitchers that should take the bump in the first three games: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, and Dallas Keuchel. That should not be a debate. Where the debate begins is in what order?

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A lot’s happened since Matthew discussed the Atlanta Braves potential playoff roster a few days ago, so an update seems in order.
Since MLB and the TV networks built so many off days in the postseason schedule, teams generally carry ten pitchers and fifteen position players. At 96-62, the Atlanta Braves have four games left to shake the rust off a few players and decide who makes up the final 25.

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Unless something else happens, the fifteen position players aren’t a mystery. The Braves have 15 uninjured players. With Ender Inciarte due back Friday that makes the answer “all of those not injured except Rafael Ortega and catcher John Ryan Murphy”.

Ortega arrived from AAA hot and hit that grand slam in first start – tenth PA – after joining the team. After going 0-8 in Miami, he put together a seven-game streak when he went 9-32 but produced only a .677 OPS.

Since then, he’s batted .118/211/.147/.358 (4-34 and four walks). He only stays if Inciarte isn’t ready. Even then, a pitcher might be a better choice.

The Braves remaining decisions are the order of the starting pitchers and the name of the tenth pitcher.

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Atlanta Braves projected starting pitchers
No mystery surrounds the first three starters for the Atlanta Braves, the only question needing an answer the order manager Brian Snitker chooses to use them.

Julio Teheran goes on Tuesday [update: and he didn’t make it through 3 innings] and Mike Soroka on Wednesday; no word yet on the rotation for the final three games. On normal rest, we’d see Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, and Dallas Keuchel. That would make Fried the Thursday starter, but that won’t happen.

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All of these off days would allow The Braves to pitch Fried Friday, Keuchel, Saturday, and Foltynewicz on Sunday, but I don’t think that happens either. I expect Keuchel to start game one, Soroka game two, Foltynewicz game three and depending on the situation, Fried in game four.

If that’s the plan, they’ll need to get Fried and Foltynewicz some innings. You might see them piggyback those two in the first Mets game to do that.

I have Dallas Keuchel taking the mound in Game 1. Unlike the rest of the staff, he is littered with postseason experience, and there is a reason Alex Anthopoulos went out and paid the man to join the team. Keuchel’s also been lights out in his last eight starts, going 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA. There shouldn’t be much discussion about this.
Game 2 will go to one of the Mikes. You could make a case for Soroka in this game, and if it was a do or die matchup, that is who I am going with. However, since it isn’t, I’m riding the hot hand in Foltynewicz. Folty’s been the best pitcher on the staff for the last month-plus. He has a 1.19 ERA in his previous six starts and is holding opponents to a combined .447 OPS. However, the primary reason I’m rolling with him instead of Soroka is because of Soroka’s unbelievable numbers on the road.

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The rookie has poise way beyond his years. He’s 7-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 15 starts away from home. That’s a weapon the Braves need to take advantage of; which is why – despite him being the best pitcher on the team this year – I would wait until they are on the road to throw him out there because he is the best-suited to lead the Braves to a win in that situation.
Game 4 will be another intriguing decision for Brian Snitker. If I am him, I’m taking the wait-and-see approach. If Dallas Keuchel or Mike Foltynewicz do not make it very deep into the game, I’d consider throwing them back out there in Game 4 over Max Fried or Julio Teheran. However, if I were to choose between Max Fried or Julio Teheran in the NLDS; I would go with Teheran because of his success against the Cardinals this season.
Teheran is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in ten innings versus the Redbirds this year. Max Fried also might be best utilized coming out of the bullpen during the postseason – at least in the opening series. The Braves have enough starting pitching to match up with the Cardinals but could use a lefty arm like Fried that can pitch nearly every night as he did in last year’s NLDS. He’s the only pitcher in this rotation with significant experience coming out of the pen and has thrived in those opportunities.

That’s how I believe Brian Snitker will handle it. He has his three top guys and will have the luxury to play the wait-and-see approach. If all goes well, the Braves win the series, and Mike Soroka can start Game 1 of the NLCS, which could be a rematch with the superteam in Los Angeles.

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The 2019 Atlanta Braves are constructed to win now. In the ultra-competitive National League Central, the Braves have put together a solid lineup but the most exciting

player in the organization isn’t even in St. Louis yet.
Nolan Gorman is the most talked about Atlanta Braves prospect in years. Drafted with the #18 overall pick last year, the young third baseman is considered a cornerstone to

the team‘s future. With last week‘s contract extension of current third baseman Matt Carpenter many in the local media and fans alike pointed to the move as a sign that the

new deal for Carp would be a bridge until young Gorman is ready.

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But that future may not be that far off.

Gorman is following up an impressive spring training by tearing up opposing pitching at Low-A Peoria. Through the first ten games, Gorman is slugging a ridiculous .868 while

popping 3 HRs. At this pace, he won‘t be spending too much more time with the Low-A Chiefs, but is it out of the realm of possibility Gorman could make his Busch Stadium sooner

rather than later?

Our own J.T. Buchheit correctly pointed out in an earlier article that historically the Braves are extremely patient with talented young position players. And as it stands

now, there doesn‘t seem to be a spot for Gorman in the big show with Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter holding solid grips on their respective

positions.

But there may just be a precedent for Gorman‘s meteoric rise in Braves history.

During the 2000 season, the Braves had a young third baseman tear through three levels of minor league ball. At each stop, the young clipper showed a rare penchant for plate

disciple combined with raw power. When the season was over, Albert Pujols had belted 19 HRs, 41 doubles and driven in 96 RBIs. He did all this maintaining a nearly 1-1 strikeout

to walk ratio (46 BB to 47Ks).

At age 22, Shelby Miller produced a season for the Atlanta Braves which was good enough to finish third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. In 173 1⁄3 innings,

Miller posted a 15-9 win-loss record with a 3.06 earned-run average. He was a bit less illustrious by fielding-independent pitching, but he still trailed only Adam Wainwright

and Lance Lynn by FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement. Shelby Miller produced, by his lesser WAR measure, the best season by a Braves pitcher who was 22 or younger since Rick

Ankiel in 2000 (I always worry when I reference Ankiel’s pitching career that younger readers have a “Ronald Reagan, the actor?” moment).

Shelby Miller took a step back in 2014; his ERA was fine, though worse than 2013 at 3.74, but it was his 4.54 FIP which caused more worries among Braves fans and the

Braves organization—he was no longer the strikeout-oriented pitcher of his rookie campaign, averaging just 6.25 strikeouts per nine innings, while his bases on balls rate

increased by nearly half a walk per game.

The Braves had a surplus of young pitchers capable of serving in the starting rotation, and because of the death of top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, a desperate need to

find an everyday starting right fielder, as the organization was not yet ready to depend on Randal Grichuk as an everyday corner outfielder. The Atlanta Braves were in the

nascent stages of what they hoped would develop into a Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs style top-to-bottom organizational rebuild.

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The two organization’s needs aligned, so the Braves traded Shelby Miller, a year removed from being a Rookie of the Year finalist and two years removed from being the

organization’s best prospect, and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins, to the Braves for right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden.

Jenkins and Walden were considered somewhat of afterthoughts at the time of the trade, and their performances with their new clubs reflected this—Jenkins struggled mightily for

the Braves in 2016 and is now producing similarly poor numbers for the El Paso Chihuahuas, the AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres; Walden was successful in his scant time

with the Braves but is presently out of baseball following issues with his pitching arm. When it comes down to it, this is the Shelby Miller and Jason Heyward trade.

From the Braves’ perspective, they “won” the trade, though this was almost certainly going to be the case from the beginning. They finished 67-95 in 2015 with Shelby Miller

but were not going to finish near a playoff position with Heyward (the same is probably also true if they’d added Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw), and re-signing Heyward, who

became a free agent after the 2015 season, was not going to align with the rebuilding process.

But how does this trade, with nearly two-and-a-half years of hindsight, look for the Braves?

Shelby Miller had a very promising 2013 rookie campaign and struggled in 2014, but in 2015, after being traded to the Braves, Miller had his best season in the Majors. His win-

loss record was poor—he went 6-17—but his 3.02 ERA was the 14th best in baseball. Once again, his peripherals were worse than his run suppression, but with 3.4 fWAR in 205 1/3

innings, he was proving himself to be no worse than a solid MLB starter.

As a Cardinal, Jason Heyward was worth 6.0 fWAR, 2.6 more than Shelby Miller that season. But in the specific case of the Braves, Heyward was more valuable than this—Grichuk

turned out to be solidly above replacement level in 2015, and he would have been fine in right field, but this also would mean Grichuk could not play in center field, meaning

more playing time for Jon Jay (a 57 wRC+ in 245 plate appearances and only above replacement level thanks to defensive metrics well out of line with his career norms) or Peter

Bourjos (a 69 wRC+ in 225 PA with career-worst defensive stats, but even assuming these metrics were a fluke, he was unlikely to be a great option). Perhaps Stephen Piscotty

could have played as well in the first half of 2015 at the MLB level as he did in the second half, but even so, his 2015 fWAR prorated to Heyward’s total number of plate

appearances, 610, was 2.6—good, but not Heyward.

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Meanwhile, Miller’s absence from the Braves rotation opened the door for Carlos Martinez. In 2015, Martinez was a shockingly similar pitcher to Miller—a 3.01 ERA, 3.21 FIP,

and like Miller, 3.4 fWAR. Martinez was unable to pitch in the postseason, so in that regard, having Miller might’ve been nice (assuming Miller would’ve pitched in the

postseason), but without Jason Heyward, the Braves might not have made the NLDS in the first place—despite 100 wins, the 98-win Pittsburgh Pirates and 97-win Chicago Cubs

meant that the Braves had to fight tooth and nail for the division crown. Even going strictly by fWAR, never mind the value of the actual replacements, Heyward was the

difference between the NLDS and needing a Wild Card game to make it.

In 2015, the trade worked. This was always necessary for the trade to, on balance, be a good one for the Braves—whether Heyward re-signed with the Braves was irrelevant

in evaluating the trade, because he could have signed with the Braves after the 2015 season regardless of where he had spent the previous season.

In 2016, Jason Heyward took a fairly significant step back—his right field defense remained elite, but he was a slightly below-average overall player due to his disastrous

offense—his 72 wRC+ was not only by far the worst of his career, but the fourth-worst qualified offensive season in baseball. But this doesn’t matter—Heyward’s 2016 wasn’t

part of the trade. Shelby Miller’s 2016 was, and as disappointing as Heyward was last season, Miller was far worse—his peripherals got worse, with his FIP and xFIP jumping to

new career highs of 4.87 and 5.06, but for the first time in his career, his ERA was worse than these fielding-independent statistics—his ERA jumped to 6.15.

But this did not hurt the Atlanta Braves. While the Braves had arguably sold low on Miller after 2014, the Braves sent Miller (and Gabe Speier) to the Arizona Diamondbacks

for Ender Inciarte (this was the point in hearing about the trade that I thought the Braves probably won the trade), top-100 prospect Aaron Blair (well, um, okay, I don’t agree

but I guess I see what Arizona is doing), and 2015 #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson (WAIT, WHAT, NO, TONY LARUSSA, DAVE STEWART, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!).

If the alternative to trading for Jason Heyward was keeping Shelby Miller into infinity, it is increasingly looking like the trade was a good idea. Miller certainly would have

hurt the Braves’ chances last year—by the time the team figured out that he was no longer qualified to be in their rotation, they would have lost extra games as a result.

Miller bounced back somewhat, though to no better than average, to start 2017, but he is now out of commission following Tommy John surgery.

But what if the Braves held onto Miller through 2015 and had the foresight to know that Miller would falter (and also that Carlos Martinez was more than capable of pitching

in a Major League rotation), thus acquiring Swanson, Inciarte, and Blair? It was a one-in-a-million trade—it has been retrospectively maligned, but consensus was overwhelmingly

that it was a steal for the Braves from the beginning—but if the Diamondbacks were willing to give that package to the Braves, they would surely also be willing to give it to

the Braves.

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In 2016, Ender Inciarte was worth 3.6 fWAR, primarily in center field. He was a stone’s throw from league-average offensively (his wRC+ was 97) but had very strong defense and

above-average base running. Had all three of the players acquired for Miller been in the Braves organization, he is likely the only one who would have logged significant

playing time in MLB in 2016—Dansby Swanson was just 22 and in his first full professional season, and despite the lack of confidence in the shortstop position prior to Aledmys

Diaz’s breakthrough, if the Braves weren’t willing to give him a chance until August 17, the Braves probably wouldn’t have early either (and even if they would later, Diaz

’s emergence would make such a move less likely). And Aaron Blair, terrible in big-league duty, would have been best served spending the entire season in Memphis.

2016 brought us Kolten Wong and Stephen Piscotty logging time in center field. The Braves missed a Wild Card spot by one game. Ender Inciarte probably would have made the

difference.

But the Chicago Cubs would have still easily won the NL Central. In reality, the Braves made the NLDS once and missed the playoffs once. In keeping Miller for 2015 and then

trading Miller to the Diamondbacks, the Braves would likely win zero NL Central titles but make the Wild Card game twice, probably hosting it in 2016 and playing the 2015

edition in Wrigley Field but being in veritable coin-flip games. This is probably close to a push, though I’d give a slight edge to reality. The expected NLDS appearances

following these Wild Card games is probably slightly less than one, as their opponents would have had slight pitching advantages—in 2015, facing Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta,

and in 2016, facing Johnny Cueto (since the San Francisco Giants would have used Madison Bumgarner in a Wild Card play-in game against the Mets, essentially duplicating the Wild

Card game from last season which the Giants won).

Of course, going forward, the trade should be paying more dividends. But it’s hard to know for sure. Aaron Blair has been promoted to the Braves, but was walking 5 1⁄2 batters

per nine innings in AAA Gwinnett. Dansby Swanson has been sub-replacement level in 2017, and while I’m certainly not giving up on the guy, it should be noted that he was

considered a lesser #1 overall pick than can’t-misses like Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. I’d certainly take him, but he’s not as sure-fire as Braves fans might want to

believe. And Ender Inciarte too has been far less dynamic in 2017.

If the choice is between 2015 Jason Heyward and 2015-onward Shelby Miller, the Braves almost certainly made the right decision. If the choice is between 2015 Jason Heyward

and 2015 Shelby Miller, plus the return that Miller commanded in a trade, it’s a bit more complicated. Knowing what the Miller return has produced so far, it’s essentially a

push, with perhaps a slight edge to Heyward, though going forward, it’s hard to not prefer the upside of Swanson and present-day MLB usefulness of Inciarte. With that said, the

Braves certainly had no illusions themselves of turning Heyward into these multiple players—they just happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right trade

chip being dealt to the right organization.

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With 490 ABs during his minor league stops in 2000, Pujols homered once every 25.7 ABs.

Through his first 10 games in 2019, Gorman has homered once every 9.5 ABs. If we include his 2018 minor league numbers with 2019 to increase our sample size, Gorman is going

yard once every 13 AB’s.

In 2000, Pujols had 154 hits with 43.5% of them going for extra bases.

So far in his early professional career, Gorman has 84 hits with 47.6% of them going for extra bases. In 2000, Pujols had an on-base percentage of .378. Gorman has a nearly

identical career OBP of .388.

One place where Gorman‘s numbers are not comparable to a young Pujols is in his BB/K ratio. Gorman has struck out 87 times and walked 37 over his short career. Although he’s

striking out twice as much as he’s drawing walks, Gorman tracking better than many of his contemporaries.

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Fernando Tatis, Jr., the prized young talent of the San Diego Padres, struck out 109 times and 141 times in the minors during 2018 and 2017, respectively. Against 33 and 77

walks each season, Tatis struck out 2 to 3 times more than he drew a walk.

Ronald Acuna, Jr. the Atlanta Braves star outfielder, struck out 144 times against 43 walks in his final season of minor league ball in 2017. Even though he was whiffing 3.34

times for every walk drawn, the Braves didn‘t hesitate to make him a part of the 2018 big league club.

And Acuna went on to win NL Rookie of the Year.

The point is the notable difference in plate patience between Pujols and Gorman is likely a product of his generation versus a reflection on his talent. Players today strikeout

more. Period. The other parallels to the onetime Cardinal great still stand.

In the spring of 2001, Braves manager Tony LaRussa got some stern advice from his veteran first baseman when finalizing his opening day roster. Mark McGwire told TLR it would

be the “biggest mistake” of his career if he didn’t bring young Albert Pujols to St. Louis with the team. Of course, Pujols made the team and the rest is history.

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If Gorman continues to tear through the Braves minor league system in 2019, it will be nearly impossible to keep him off the team next year. There’ll be 20 candles on his

birthday cake next May and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t blowing those out somewhere in St. Louis should his current level of perfromance continue.

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Last week, someone mentioned a name I hadn’t heard in a while: Biff Pocoroba. I had heard Braves announcers mention the name before as a young-un, but the only Biff I knew was a bully to George McFly and used Gray’s Sports Almanac to rule the world.

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When one thinks of iconic Braves, names such as Hank Aaron or Dale Murphy come to mind as they should, but…Biff Pocoroba? In my research, I found Biff has become a cult icon, mainly because of his name. I must admit: it’s an awesome-sounding name. If there were a Hall of Fame specifically for names, he’d be in there. As a ballplayer, however, he was little more than “meh”.

Bryce Harper had a very special gift for the Phillie Phanatic on his birthday.

Harper presented the Phils’ mascot with a wrapped present prior to the start of Sunday’s game at Citizens Bank Park.

Inside the box was a pair of new Phanatic shoes – replicas of the green cleats Harper wore on Opening Day!

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There’s a new manager for the Atlanta Braves this season. After four years of Bobby Cox, former Atlanta catcher Joe Torre takes over to get the Braves to the next level.

Torre was fired by the New York Mets, but when Braves owner Ted Turner fired Cox, he looked for a personality. Remember, the franchise is not only a baseball team. It is a TV show, as well.

The Braves struck out on adding free agent Reggie Jackson to the lineup. Instead, Jackson signed with the California Angels. Jackson certainly would have looked good between Dale Murphy and Bob Horner in the lineup.

Instead, the two Atlanta sluggers will once again lead the offense. Murphy struggled at times last season, with a .247 batting average. Like Torre, Murphy is a former catcher, and you can bet the new manager will have Murphy as his pet project this spring.

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Horner must stay healthy, but he’s proven in three-plus years he’s one of the best home run hitters in the game. He’ll anchor the infield that also includes first baseman Chris Chambliss, second baseman Glenn Hubbard and shortstop Rafael Ramirez.

While it might not be the historic infield the Los Angeles Dodgers have, this group has been together for two years now. Bruce Benedict returns behind the plate, with Biff Pocoroba and Matt Sinatro also around.

Left field is a bit of a question. Last season, Brett Butler showed promise with good speed, but he was unable to unseat Rufino Linares. Claudell Washington had a solid debut season with the Braves in 1981, hitting .291 as the starting right fielder.

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As always, the worry will be the pitching. The Braves can certainly hit in “The Launching Pad,” but can they keep the other teams from hitting? As always, Phil Niekro leads the staff. And after that …

Veteran Gaylord Perry will try to win his 200th game elsewhere, so the Braves must replace his 23 starts. There is no reason to doubt Niekro, who continues to sail along at 43 years of age.

Tommy Boggs made 24 starts last season, but his shoulder needs to stop barking at him. The Braves would probably love for Bob Walk to step forward. Atlanta got the right-hander from the Philadelphia Phillies for Gary Matthews before last season, but he pitched in only 12 games.

There are young arms who might crack the rotation. Steve Bedrosian made 25 starts in Triple-A Richmond in 1981, while southpaw Ken Dayley made 31 starts. And there are whispers the Braves might make Rick Camp a starter again. Camp led Atlanta with 17 saves last season. Rick Mahler is another swing pitcher who could get some starts.

Gene Garber might reclaim the closer’s job, but can he be helped by lefty Al Hrabosky? The “Mad Hungarian” has just four saves in two years since signing a huge contract with Turner.

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Larry McWilliams and Preston Hanna are still around and could get another shot.

This Braves team looks to be on the cusp of being good, but can Torre get it over the hump. The offense looks strong, but the pitching will be the key. If new pitching coach Bob Gibson can get anything out of pitchers not named Niekro, it could be an improved season for the Braves.

The Phanatic gave Harper a hug as the friendship between the two continues to grow.

The Phillies also gave the Phanatic another gift: a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins.

The “Phillie Phanatic” jumps on the back of Atlanta Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba during a pre-game warmup before double header at night on Tuesday, July 12, 1983 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/ Rusty Kennedy)

While the Phanatic’s actual birthday is April 25, the Phillies celebrated it on Sunday. Hey, the Phanatic deserves two birthdays, doesn’t he?

The Braves franchise four leaders — Aaron, Chipper, Maddux, Spahn — is a slap in the face to Biff Pocoroba. – Craig Calcaterra
Biff was a catcher in the ’70s and ’80s and was a career Brave, playing all 596 games while wearing a tomahawk. He was a .257 hitter, but he once threw out 11 straight potential base-stealers. 1977 was his best year: he played in 113 games; he hit .290, and hit a walk-off grand slam. However, his 1978 year was most puzzling. That year, he finished the season hitting just .242 but was selected as an All-Star. Why? Teammate Phil Niekro was on that All-Star squad, and apparently no catchers wanted to try to catch Niekro’s knuckler; none except Biff. To no one’s surprise, Biff had 53 passed balls in his career; most of them before 1980.

Following rotator cuff surgery in 1979, Biff was limited primarily to pinch-hitting duties for the remainder of his career, although Bobby Cox did try him out at third base.

Biff played his final game April 20, 1984. In retirement, he opened Sausage World, a specialty meat establishment in Lilburn, Georgia.

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So many aspects have gone right for the 2019 Braves. Expected closer A.J. Minter is not among them.

Minter, the 26-year-old lefty who was projected as the ninth-inning man entering spring, has been a non-factor in the Braves’ likely second consecutive division championship. That’s after a first full season in which he posted a 3.23 ERA in 61-1/3 frames and saved 15 games.The player who once reminded some of Craig Kimbrel owns a 7.06 ERA in 36 appearances (29-1/3 innings) this season. His 35:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio is an eye-opening dropoff from last season’s 69:22 mark.

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His hits per nine (11) and homers per nine (0.9) have jumped.Instead of locking down the ninth with co-closer Arodys Vizcaino, Minter has spent his season up and down between Triple-A Gwinnett and the majors. Vizcaino, meanwhile, was injured and traded to Seattle.The Braves first demoted Minter in May after he allowed the winning run in a loss to the Diamondbacks. His ERA was north of 9.00, and he wouldn’t return until a month later.

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Manager Brian Snitker continued preaching the need for a rejuvenated Minter in the bullpen. It never happened. The southpaw has posted a 5.40 ERA with 14 walks in 21 games (18-1/3 innings) since he was recalled from the initial demotion.His regression left the bullpen in a difficult spot. The Braves received enough spurts of productivity from unheralded heroes until the trade deadline, when they swung for the fences and brought in three veteran right-handers to fortify the unit.It’s been the season from hell for Minter since spring training. He left an exhibition outing in early March after he experienced left-shoulder soreness. Minter explained the pain could be traced to a fender-bender auto accident he had in the Orlando area earlier in the week.

season to forget for left-handed reliever A.J. Minter officially came to an end on Thursday as the Braves placed him on the 60-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation.

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The Braves also reinstated left-handed reliever Grant Dayton from the injured list and placed him on the active roster.

Minter, who was injured during a minor car accident in the spring, never found his footing after a breakout campaign in 2018. He struggled to the tune of a 7.06 ERA (4.61 FIP) across 36 appearances and 29 1⁄3 innings with the big league club. He most recently pitched on Tuesday night in Philadelphia and promptly gave up a no-doubt homer to the first batter he faced. Here’s hoping A.J. can get healthy over the winter months and be ready to go for 2020.

Dayton, who appeared in 10 games while working through injury troubles of his own, has impressed in limited duty and has good stuff from the left side. He will join Sean Newcomb and Jerry Blevins as the southpaw options for manager Brian Snitker.

Minter missed the rest of spring and part of the regular season, embarking on a four-game rehab assignment before joining the Braves on April 4. Snitker recalls that issue as one root of his problematic year.“I point back to the fact that he missed spring training,” Snitker said. “I’m not so sure he’s not playing catch up all year. He hasn’t been the same guy he was last year. That cutter hasn’t been as big a force. The fastball command has been off. He’s had a tough year. That happens, too. You have to reflect, regroup and come out and make changes, make adjustments for next year.

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“He had a good bullpen (session Tuesday), and we’re going to stay with him because we know what he’s capable of. It’s been a tough year for him.”Minter surrendered a homer to Corey Dickerson in the Braves’ 6-5 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday. It proved to be the difference in a tight game, but also captured just how different Minter’s reality is from a season ago.Once finishing games for a first-place club, Minter was pitching the sixth inning of a September game that the Braves didn’t exactly need to win.

Rather than a pivotal piece of the back end, Minter was thrown into the middle-relief mix with Darren O’Day and Anthony Swarzak. Snitker pointed to Minter’s fastball and cutter location as the biggest change from this year to last. Minter, who’s under team control through 2024 and isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2021, can call this year a wash. It would be an upset if he was on the team’s postseason roster.

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It will make next season the most important one of his career. But in the present, the Braves will let him pitch in the final three weeks and hope he’s progressing toward a better 2020.“In this business, you have to just keep working,” Snitker said. “It happens. Until you amass five, six, seven years in a row and get a feel for what you’re doing and how to do it, young guys are still a work in progress. It affects a young player more than a veteran guy when they miss the bulk of spring training that they did.”

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Teheran hasn’t been able to blossom into the ace many thought he had the potential of being when he was a younger player in a Braves uniform. His velocity has steadily gone down year-by-year, and with it, so has his consistency. Because of that, many had pitchforks in hand screaming at Alex Anthopoulos to deal him before the season began. In hindsight, that might have doomed the Braves had it happened. The rotation, for most of the season, was in shambles, and Teheran was arguably the best pitcher on the staff for four months from May to September, recording a 2.67 ERA. He was integral to this team’s success, but as this season has waned, and the rotation has become stronger, Teheran might find himself on the outside looking in when talking about the postseason roster.

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The longtime Brave undoubtedly has the least electric stuff in the current rotation. That’s not necessarily a knock on him as much as it is a testament to the other four starting pitchers. Dallas Keuchel is going to pitch Game 1, Mike Foltynewicz looks like a safe bet to toe the mound in Game 2, and Mike Soroka – a road warrior – should be penciled in for Game 3. As far as Game 4, the Braves will likely take the wait-and-see approach, but they do have Max Fried and Julio Teheran if necessary. However, with the way Teheran has tossed it of late, I find it difficult for Snitker to justify sending him out there for a start.

The Atlanta Braves are headed to the postseason for the second straight season and for the second straight year Julio Teheran is unlikely to make the rotation. Teheran has struggled badly and likely to be replaced by Mike Foltynewicz.
While the Atlanta Braves decision for the postseason rotation seems to be finalized they still have to decide Teheran’s future this off-season. Julio Teheran is finishing off yet another inconsistent season for the Braves.

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Much of the frustration that is sent in Teheran’s direction is unfair considering his contract and how many innings he eats. The frustration comes from the fact that Teheran was expected to be a top of the rotation piece.

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Instead, he has evolved into an innings eater who is at his best when he is commanding the strike zone and getting soft contact. He isn’t anything close to a strikeout pitcher and doesn’t have a power pitch. Because of this, there will be starts where he simply doesn’t have it.

That was the case in his last outing when he failed to make it three innings giving up six runs and looking defeated and tired.

Still, Teheran has won 10-games this season with a 3.81 ERA and had stretches of being simply dominant. The Braves should continue to be patient with Teheran and bring him back for another season.

What he brings to the roster cannot be easily replaced even if he isn’t the pitcher you want on the mound during the postseason. Having a pitcher like Julio on this roster is important until at least one more young arm proves themselves to the Braves.

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NEXT: Braves Should Start Inciarte
Teheran is 77-73 in his career with a 3.67 career ERA, not bad numbers at all in an increasingly hitter-friendly league. Despite the frustration with his inconsistencies bringing Teheran back for another season is the obvious move for a Braves franchise who continues to head in the right direction.

In his last three appearances, Teheran’s longest outing has been five innings, which he has done once, allowing three earned runs. Last night, he surrendered six runs in two-plus innings to the sixty-win Royals. And what has been most notable about this stretch, Teheran is falling back into old habits, giving out home runs and extra-base hits like candy. At this point, the only way I see him on the postseason roster is as insurance.
The Braves have better arms they can turn to out of the bullpen, so it doesn’t make much sense to keep him around strictly as a reliever. His best hope is if Brian Snitker views Max Fried as a hybrid reliever that can also start if need be. In that case, he might want to keep Teheran on the roster to make an emergency start in case none of the other four arms can pitch.

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However, that is a rather defensive strategy, and with the amount of talent on the 40-man roster, I’m not so sure that is how the Braves will approach it. For the first time all season, Teheran’s spot on the playoff roster is up in the air, and he does not have another outing left to prove he is deserving.
I don’t imagine there would be many tears shed if Teheran is not around during the postseason. However, last night might also be the final time we see him in a Braves uniform. Alex Anthopoulos has a decision to make regarding his $12 million option for 2020. The Braves can buy him out for $1 million and allocate that money elsewhere – perhaps on extensions for Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, or both. Some other free agents might pique Atlanta’s interest as well, and more young arms are waiting on the horizon for an opportunity in 2020.

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Keeping Teheran around for $12 million certainly would not be the worst thing the Braves could do. After all, he did put together a marvelous campaign this season. However, there are no guarantees. If this is the last time we see Teheran in a Braves uniform, it is a bit of a tear-jerking moment. He’s the only player besides Freddie Freeman to make it through the entire rebuild, and despite criticism, has been nothing but a class act and a pretty damn good pitcher. Hopefully, the Braves can send him out in style with a ring.

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For all our talk of postseason disappointments, for all the talk of having only one World Series trophy to show for all of the playoff appearances that the Braves had in the 90s and early 2000s, it’s reasonable to say that the Atlanta Braves have been a really successful franchise. I think there would be quite a few MLB fan bases that would trade places with us. One thing we haven’t been known for though, is being an exceptionally fun group of players. We haven’t been at Yankees-level of policing behavior, anathematizing such distractions like beards, long hair, and domestic abuse; but we haven’t exactly been a barrel of fun either. We have had our fun bright spots in our past—Deion Sanders, the “chicks dig the long ball” commercial—but overall, this franchise has mostly been all about business. And I can get the appeal of that for some people. Hell, it’s the reason that vanilla ice cream, plain cake doughnuts, Grape Nuts, and 3 Musketeers candy bars exist: some people are just boring.

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While the 90s Braves had a lot of winning, they also had a lot of Grape Nuts. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are two of the greatest pitchers this game will ever see, but most of the time they couldn’t personality their way out of the third inning. Would anyone be talking about Fred McGriff if he didn’t wear his hat comically high on his head? I’ve been a Braves fan for my entire life, and I honestly cannot recall ever hearing Javy Lopez speak. And I know, ladies…he doesn’t have to.

There were a couple of big visitors on the South Carolina football sideline on Saturday afternoon as the Gamecocks got set to take on Charleston Southern.

NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was there with his son, four-star quarterback Shedeur Sanders (Trinity Christian School/Cedar Hill, Texas). The two, obviously are in attendance to see Shilo Sanders in his first game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

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Shilo Sanders, a freshman defensive back for the Gamecocks, made the trip to Bank of America Stadium for the season-opener, but did not see any game action either on defense or special teams. Shilo, a three-star player in the recruiting process, began his career with South Carolina as a cornerback but has since moved to safety.

Deion, of course, made his name at Florida State as a cornerback and was one of the best players in the country. Then, he played professional sports in Atlanta, for the Braves on the baseball field and the Falcons on the football field. Deion went on to play for four other NFL teams and was a two-time Super Bowl champion and an eight-time NFL Pro Bowl player.

When Shilo moved onto campus in early May, Deion made the trip with him and was very vocal of his support in the Gamecocks football program, particularly since defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson is coaching the Under All-American cornerback and Muschamp has a good track record. Robinson and Kevin Mathis, who coaches at Trinity Christian, played in the NFL together.

Gant took the news of his release pretty hard. After all, he’d been drafted by Atlanta as an 18-year-old in 1983 out of Victoria (Texas) High School, was the Braves’ Minor League Player of the Year in 1986, and had made his debut with the big club the following year.

He was a mainstay of some terrible Atlanta clubs in 1988 and 1990 (he spent much of the 1989 season in the minor leagues learning to play the outfield after coming up as a second baseman), and began to come into his own just as the Braves turned the corner as a franchise in 1991. Batting fifth and playing center field every day, Gant hit 32 homers and drove in 105 — posting a 127 OPS+ — for the NL pennant winners.

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Gant struggled in 1992 — batting .259/.321/.459 with just 17 homers. That led to a benching in after Game 1 of the World Series in favor of Deion Sanders (who, in fairness, had an excellent series despite Atlanta losing in six games to Toronto), as well as some offseason trade rumors that never came to fruition.

It’s a good thing Gant stayed in Atlanta, because the Braves probably wouldn’t have won the 1993 division title without him. And yet a few months later, he quickly became a former Brave.

“I’m bitter about it,” Gant said regarding his release in a 1994 interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I know it was a financial decision. The thing I don’t like is I devoted myself so much to that team, that’s what I got in return. … I do miss Atlanta. I will always be a Brave in my heart.”

“Coach Champ, man, I got love for him. I’ve followed his journey,” Deion Sanders said. “I like what he brings to the table as a head coach, the structure, the organization and the character values. It’s a good spot. It’s an hour and a half flight for me. I love all of it. Everything associated with athletics, including the academics, are unbelievable man. This is a first class school. I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy. I’m elated.”

Shedeur Sanders holds a 0.9139 rating in the 247Sports Composite, which makes him the No. 240 player in the country in the 2021 recruiting class. He is considered the No. 15 pro-style quarterback nationally and has 17 offers to his credit, including one from the Gamecocks.

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Six schools from the Southeastern Conference have offered Shedeur, including Alabama. He also has an offer from his father’s alma mater, Florida State while Michigan and UCLA headline other major programs on his offer list.

South Carolina and Charleston Southern will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium with coverage provided by the SEC Network.

2008 Atlanta Braves Photo Day
You’re welcome. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
I think this is what I find most refreshing about the 2019 Braves team: They are the most fun sports team I have ever followed. I’m sure that there have been some very fun moments in the clubhouse of the 90s Braves, but I’d hazard a guess that many of those stories shouldn’t see the light of day in 2019. But this team has Ronald Acuña, who may be the most exciting young player in baseball. We have Mike Foltynewicz, who is worth the price of admission just to watch his reactions on the mound when someone hits the ball hard off him. In just the past few days, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and paraded around the dugout holding an umbrella, Dansby Swanson and Matt Joyce slid into home at the same time, and Dallas Keuchel did whatever this is supposed to be:

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Keuchel’s got the moves like JD
Keuchel’s got the moves like JD @kidkeuchy has the “@BringerOfRain20 can’t believe he’s not getting that call” maneuver DOWN.#Braves | #ChopOn

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We have a team with Ozzie Albies and Acuña, who have one of the funniest relationships in recent memory. We have seen a player batflip a walk. Adeiny Hechavarria was a Brave for five minutes and flipped a bat out of the frame after hitting a homer. New players are coming to the Braves and are almost immediately adapting to the culture, relaxing, and having the time of their lives. Freddie Freeman made a name for himself a few years ago by hugging other players all the time, and he almost looks boring next to some of these new guys. Remember during the rebuild, Dave O’Brien and Jeff Schultz took it upon themselves as their personal mission to convince us that teams led by Adonis Garcia and Alberto Callaspo would be “fun to watch”? The 2019 Braves are undeniably fun to watch, on top of being really good.

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The Braves have clinched the NL East for the second year in a row! How exhilarating does that feel to say after everyone counted us out despite running away with the division last year? The next step: win their first playoff series since 2001, and maybe win 100 games before they get there. One of the biggest questions over the last couple of months entering the postseason was who would be included in the playoff rotation. After last night, there is no doubt that Mike Foltynewicz belongs right in the middle of it.

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The enigmatic ace from 2018 is officially all the way back, as he tossed eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing just three hits in a 6-0 victory to clinch the division. It was the moment that brought Folty’s 2019 full circle. From starting the year injured, to being so porous that the Braves had to demote him to Gwinnett for well over a month, to returning as – dare I say it – the Braves best pitcher on the roster… That is the beauty of baseball.

It wasn’t just last night either that Folty proved he was back to the pitcher that earned the Game 1 start in the NLDS a season ago. Since his return, he’s posted a 2.35 ERA, and in his last six starts, he’s boasting a minuscule 1.19 ERA. The question is no longer whether Foltynewicz deserves to start in the NLDS – it’s which game.
Snitker has several quality options to throw out there, and all five in the rotation deserve an opportunity. Unfortunately, only four can make the cut, so it will be up to Snitker to pull the right cards and find the proper role for each of these guys.

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The Braves have clinched the NL East for the second year in a row! How exhilarating does that feel to say after everyone counted us out despite running away with the division last year? The next step: win their first playoff series since 2001, and maybe win 100 games before they get there. One of the biggest questions over the last couple of months entering the postseason was who would be included in the playoff rotation. After last night, there is no doubt that Mike Foltynewicz belongs right in the middle of it.
The enigmatic ace from 2018 is officially all the way back, as he tossed eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing just three hits in a 6-0 victory to clinch the division. It was the moment that brought Folty’s 2019 full circle. From starting the year injured, to being so porous that the Braves had to demote him to Gwinnett for well over a month, to returning as – dare I say it – the Braves best pitcher on the roster… That is the beauty of baseball.

Mike Foltynewicz is heating up at an opportune time for the Atlanta Braves.

Collectively spelling, the 2019 Major League Baseball season has been cruel to Foltynewicz, beginning with him missing the first month due to an elbow injury. From his April 27 season debut, he struggled with his command, got hit hard, and forced Braves manager Brian Snitker to go to his bullpen midway through games. He has surrendered a career-high 21 home runs this season and saw his ERA spike to 6.37 after surrendering eight runs in a June 22 matchup on the road against the rival Washington Nationals.

After that nightmare outing in the nation’s capital, Foltynewicz was placed on the injured list and didn’t make a return to the hill for the Braves until early August; he came back a changed pitcher.

In his nine starts off the injured list, Foltynewicz has recorded an astonishing 2.35 ERA, totaled 50 strikeouts, lowered his WHIP from 1.42 to 1.26, and provided length. He has pitched through six innings in five starts and seven innings in three starts. In the 11 starts he made before going on the injured list, Foltynewicz never pitched through the seventh inning.

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He’s keeping hitters guessing, limiting the long ball, and having success by means of a consistent five-pitch arsenal (slider, sinker, four seamer, curveball, and changeup). This is the pitcher the Braves are in awe of. Foltynewicz looks like the ace they leaned on last season when he recorded a 2.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while totaling 202 strikeouts. He’s a strikeout pitcher who works out of trouble and answers the call in pivotal games.

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Now, he did implode in Game 1 of the Braves’ National League Division Series matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, where he surrendered four runs and two home runs through just two innings. But he bounced back, surrendering just one run through four innings in Game 4.

A year later Foltynewicz has postseason experience under his belt, knows he can’t fool around with his pitch selection in big games, and is on one of, if not the best streak of his big-league career. His success rounds out what has become a deep Braves starting rotation.

Mike Soroka has been deceptive, is averaging slightly above six innings per start, and owns a remarkable 2.60 ERA; Julio Teheran is a proven commodity who continues to evade trouble and pitch well in big moments; Dallas Keuchel brings a great deal of postseason experience to the table; Max Fried has kept the Braves in games; Sean Newcomb could be a versatile postseason threat, as he’s adept at starting and coming out of the bullpen.

With all that said, there’s a red flag or something working against all of Atlanta’s starters. Soroka is a rookie meaning he has never pitched in the postseason; Teheran doesn’t provide length and hasn’t made a postseason start since 2013; Keuchel’s command has been spotty, and he has been inconsistent this season; Fried and Newcomb put a lot of runners on base.

Right now Foltynewicz is the Braves best starting pitcher. Whenever he has taken the hill the last two months, he has performed at a high level and given the Braves a chance to win; when you have a lineup that features the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, and Ozzie Albies, that’s all you need.

There’s a chance that Soroka fares the same way Foltynewicz did in the postseason, but this time around the Braves have starters with postseason experience, and those same individuals are pitching well. Foltynewicz turning a corner was an essential trade deadline acquisition for the Braves.

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They looked poised to win the NL East and be a pennant threat back in July, but their rotation was an area of concern for when October came, and Foltynewicz was generally viewed as an afterthought at that time. His presence has given the Braves another reliable starter and, bigger than that, has alleviated some pressure off their rattly bullpen.

For Foltynewicz to turn the tide and be the Braves best pitcher since returning to the hill is remarkable. It also couldn’t have come at a better time, as he could ride his high-level performance into the NLDS — where he’s likely going to face an accomplished St. Louis Cardinals lineup which features Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and others.

The Braves have won the NL East for the second consecutive season and own the second-best record in the NL at 96-61. Sure, they have their potential kryptonite — like every other World Series contender — but they have the roster to go on a deep postseason run. It’s a matter of not being fazed by the postseason and playing to their strengths.

The Braves need an ace, and their 2018 lead dog is pitching like his old self. This is just what they needed.

It wasn’t just last night either that Folty proved he was back to the pitcher that earned the Game 1 start in the NLDS a season ago. Since his return, he’s posted a 2.35 ERA, and in his last six starts, he’s boasting a minuscule 1.19 ERA. The question is no longer whether Foltynewicz deserves to start in the NLDS – it’s which game.
Snitker has several quality options to throw out there, and all five in the rotation deserve an opportunity. Unfortunately, only four can make the cut, so it will be up to Snitker to pull the right cards and find the proper role for each of these guys.

Mike Foltynewicz deserves a spot in the top three. You could even make the case that he should start Game 1 because of the way he’s looked of late. I wouldn’t go that far. To me, Keuchel’s experience in the postseason, along with his stellar performance recently as well, should take the mound in Game 1 for the Braves, but Game 2 could be in the cards for Foltynewicz. That one will be at home, and it is worth noting Folty has only allowed three earned runs in his last 23.2 innings at SunTrust Park. However, on the season, he has a slightly worse ERA at home than on the road. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka has been lights out on the road, posting a 7-1 record with a ridiculous 1.35 ERA. If I’m Brian Snitker, I’m looking at that and starting Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2 and trusting the rookie on the road in a Game 3.

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Mike Foltynewicz deserves a spot in the top three. You could even make the case that he should start Game 1 because of the way he’s looked of late. I wouldn’t go that far. To me, Keuchel’s experience in the postseason, along with his stellar performance recently as well, should take the mound in Game 1 for the Braves, but Game 2 could be in the cards for Foltynewicz. That one will be at home, and it is worth noting Folty has only allowed three earned runs in his last 23.2 innings at SunTrust Park. However, on the season, he has a slightly worse ERA at home than on the road. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka has been lights out on the road, posting a 7-1 record with a ridiculous 1.35 ERA. If I’m Brian Snitker, I’m looking at that and starting Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2 and trusting the rookie on the road in a Game 3.